A nice and inspirational excerpt from Jeanne deSalzmann’s book “The Reality of Being”
In coming together to practice the work to be present in practical activities, we are drawn by an irresistible desire for the miraculous but find ourselves working at mundane tasks like construction, cleaning, cooking, pottery. How do we relate these two, the miraculous and life? Through action. Without action, there is no miraculous and no life.
When we think of an action, we never think that actions can be radically different in themselves, in their quality. We see clearly the difference between wood and metal, and we are not mistaken. But we do not see that, in their quality, actions can be as different from each other as different materials. We are blind to the forces that enter into our actions. Of course, we know that our action is meant to reach an aim, and we expect a result from it. We always
think of the aim, of the result, but never of the action itself. Nevertheless, the aim does not determine the action. It is the quality of the force entering an action that conditions it, that makes it automatic or creative. The miraculous is the entry into an action of a conscious force that knows why and how the action is performed.
Each act, everything we do—working with wood or stone, making a meal or a work of art, or thinking—can be either automatic or a creation. In my habitual state I always proceed by repetition. When I have to produce something, the first thing I do is collect my memories on the subject. Then I put together all my experience and all my knowledge, and go forward. My head applies itself, my body follows, and at times I am interested. But all this is
merely automatic, and something in me knows it. There is no need for the action to be performed in one particular way or another, and I can do it at a tempo that pleases me. I may succeed in doing something well, but this has no power to change me. It contains no power of action, of creation.
The situation is completely different when my action is not a repetition but something new, an action that can only take place in the present moment to respond to a need I recognize right now. Then there is only one possible speed, and no other tempo can replace it. In a creative action, this comes from a life force that is irresistible, recognized as a truth I obey. And it is this force that sees what has to be done and directs my thought and body. It creates an act and an object, which contains a dynamism and intelligence that are irresistible. The word must be said, the sound emitted.
In order to act in this way, I need to be free, without any image or idea, without thought trapped in memory. Freedom is not freedom from something, but freedom to be in the present, in a moment that never existed before. Action is immediate, without the intervention of thought. I never know; I learn. It is always new. In order to learn, I must have freedom to look. The thinking is silent, entirely silent, free. It sees. In this state, we can understand and carry out an action with all the parts of ourselves. We can even act together with others, provided that, in this moment, all have the same seriousness and intensity.
An action depends on the way my energy is engaged at the very moment I act. I have to be conscious of this at the moment of action and feel the movement of the energy going toward its goal. Once the movement has begun, it is too late to intervene. What has been launched no longer belongs to me. Nothing can stop it from giving the results that will follow—whether good or bad, strong or weak, pure or distorted. Everything is thus determined by the disposition of my different centers at the moment of the action. Each act requires a certain freedom of my body, a one-pointedness of my thought, and an interest, a warmth for what is being done. This will bring me a new way of living.